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Scoping literature reviews

Another type of literature review is a scoping review, which includes information from journal articles, textbooks and grey literature (Peterson et al. 2017), such as government reports and policy documents.

The aim of a scoping review is usually to summarise a broad topic.

How does it differ from a systematic review?

Systematic reviews tend to focus on a specific question while scoping reviews cover broader topics and sources (Arksey and O’Malley 2005). This means that scoping reviews are less in-depth by comparison.

Peterson et al. (2017) also highlight the flexibility of scoping reviews, compared to systematic reviews, as different types of literature can be included in the former.

Pros of scoping literature reviews Cons of scoping literature reviews
Provide a comprehensive overview of newer topics. The quality of studies is not assessed in a scoping review.
Allow for assessment of the feasibility of a systematic literature review within the topic. Relevant studies may not be included without a systematic approach to selecting studies.
Consider a range of sources. Screening all relevant literature can be time-consuming.
  Lack of depth in the summary of findings.


Arksey, H., and O’Malley, L. (2005) ‘Scoping Studies: Towards a Methodological Framework’. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 8 (1), 19-32

Peterson, J., Pearce, P.F., Ferguson, L.A., and Langford, C.A. (2017) ‘Understanding Scoping Reviews: Definition, Purpose, and Process’. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners 29 (1), 12-16

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This article is from the free online course:

Systematic Literature Review: An Introduction

Coventry University